Here we are in mid-May and all I got was football questions. Well, that’s life in The Dirty South, right? . . .
JAWJeRDAWG asks: If we can get some continuity out of both the OL and secondary, do you think UGA could have a special year in 2011?
Chip: I’ve been covering college sports for 25 years and I can tell you in all certainty that anything is possible.
First of all, I believe continuity on the offensive line is one of the big factors that determine success in college football. Georgia has already been hit there with the loss of Trinton Sturdivant. But I think they’re actually OK up front if they can stay somewhat settled and develop a little more depth there between now and Game One.
Secondary, in my opinion, is more a product of how you play in the front seven. Left un-pressured and/or un-confused, SEC quarterbacks and receivers can simply shred defenses at this level. I think Year Two in coach Todd Grantham’s system and the infusion/development of new talent at linebacker and interior defensive line can help the Bulldogs most in that regard. I think there are some pretty good athletes in the defensive backfield as it is.
That said, having a “special year” is another thing. By that, I would assume you mean win some kind of championship. Good fortune plays a big part. Injuries are going to come, but the timing of them and the positions affected are the key. Really you have to get some good breaks in your games and in some other teams’ games.
Cynics will point to Georgia’s 6-7 record last year as a reason good things can’t happen for the Bulldogs in 2011. But a closer examination reveals it might actually be a reason to think they can. In almost every season Georgia has won an SEC or national title in the modern era, it has come after a sub-par year. For example:
Championship year — Previous season’s record
And that trend isn’t exclusive to Georgia. Consider that before Alabama started its run in 2008, it went 7-6. Florida was 9-4 before winning the 2008 BCS title; LSU went 8-5 before winning it all in 2003; and Auburn was 8-5 before last season’s run.
I’m not in anyway predicting similar success for the Bulldogs this season. I’m just saying that “what happened last year” may be the worst indicator for “what’s gonna happen this one.”
Patrick Green asks: I’m hearing from reliable sources that A.J. Harmon and/or Caleb King will be ruled ineligible because of academics. Just wondering if you had heard the same rumors about these two? That would leave us with only three scholarship backs, including true freshman Isaiah Crowell. While I hope Crowell will be as good as billed, he won’t know pass-pro assignments right away. How is this going to affect Coach Will Friend’s ability to put together a cohesive OL, and Mike Bobo’s ability to create an effective running game.
Chip: I’m not who your sources are or how reliable they are but if they do actually have access to or knowledge of either of these players’ academic records anything they’re telling you right now is actually a violation of federal law. But to answer your question, yes, I’ve heard the rumors. I’ve been hearing them for a couple of weeks, in fact. But since both players’ were academically ineligible to participate in the bowl game, I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to guess they could be in trouble now.
That said, coach Mark Richt’s most recent comments indicate he expects at least King to be a part of the football team this fall. In fact, he said as much at a UGA Alumni Association meeting in Charlotte Thursday night. I wasn’t there but, when asked specifically about King before the meeting, he told Gentry Estes of Dawgs247.com, “We expect him to be back.”
I can tell you that I’ve had off-the-record conversations with people in-the-know about these and other situations and I have a pretty good idea how it might turn out. The thing is, there are processes and rights these kids have with regard to academics and eligibility, and I very much respect laws protecting individuals’ academic privacy. So I’m not looking to “scoop” anybody on this issue. These kids are under enough pressure as it is. I respectfully ask people to let these things run their proper course and we’ll all know who’s eligible and who’s not in due time.
RHALL55 asks: Justin Scott-Wesley, what are his plans? I thought his scholarship offer was pulled, but I saw one sports publication stating he had signed a LOI. Puzzling.
Chip: I can only assume you’re confusing JSW with Zack Witchett. Witchett, a wide receiver from Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington High, committed to Georgia last fall but had his scholarship offer rescinded due to off-the-field problems. Witchett ended up signing with Hinds Community College in Mississippi on national signing day.
As for Scott-Wesley, he signed with the Bulldogs, has qualified for admission and recently defended his Class A state championship in the 100-meter dash. He was unable to repeat in the 200 meters, but that probably has something to do with Scott-Wesley’s continued size and strength gains through coach Joe Tereshinski’s off-season training regimen for signees. The 6-1 Scott-Wesley is approaching 220 pounds these days.
ColonelDawg asks: Does it seem to you that Grantham doesn’t like Richard Samuel or has RS really not progressed very well in the defense? RS is from my local high school so I was able to see him play regularly and I always felt he was better suited for the defensive side of the ball. It’s a shame how his college career has turned out so far. I really hope he can be a big contributor these last two years. How much of a role do you see him playing in the defense?
Chip: I don’t believe Grantham dislikes Samuel at all. In fact, he likes him a lot. He has told me as much. The fact of the matter is the switch back to defense is not as simple as many might think, particularly at linebacker. He’s competing with some guys that have done nothing but play that side of the ball for years. That said, there’s no substitute for the size and speed Samuel brings to the table and Grantham loves Samuel’s ability to get from sideline-to-sideline. His inclusion to the linebacker corps as a whole — in addition to Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree — has helped transform that unit into one I think will be among the quickest and most athletic in the league this season.
SUHatter94: I love the “walk-up songs” they use in baseball, like Chipper Jones’ “Crazy Train.” Wouldn’t it be cool if they used them in football? What do you think the walk-up songs might be for some of Georgia’s 2011 players?
Chip: Love the question ‘Hatter. Here’s a few off the top of my head . . .
You could go on-and-on with this. Let’s hear some from The Blogosphere!